Saturday, May 24, 2008

HDB Revises Flat Application Rules (part III of III)

Continuing parts I and II,

Against the hope that someone important reads these posts, let me put the constructive comments before all the vitriol below.

Who are those "with urgent housing needs" who HDB should be selling flats to? They are the couples married or getting married, planning to have children in less than five years. When you have thousands of such couples applying for flats, and none of them wanted any one of the 30% of flats available in a particular BTO, what does that tell you? It tells me that for some reason, those flats are not suitable. Too expensive, too far away, too small, etc.

Yes, they could compromise to have less than ideal flats, so by definition they are picky. But if you choose to define them as picky, and try to shoehorn them into your plans rather than catering to their needs, then you're going to get delayed marriages, delayed parenthood, less children than they might otherwise have had.

My suggestion is this : 70% of the Coral Spring flats were sold. 30% could find no buyers at the price. I'm sure it was no accident that this 30% were not selected. They must be overpriced, in the sense that all the remaining homeowners rejected them. Can they be priced lower? If the price is already "unreasonably" low, then these flats must be worth less than they cost to built. Should they not be built? If they must be built (maybe they're all the low floors, or all the afternoon sun units), then the prices of the entire block should reflect the losses that would be made on the low-value units. And if the HDB overestimated the value of those units - then like private sector organisations, it should decide if it's better to discount these units or hang on to them and absorb the loss.

Well those flats are subsidised, they're being built to help (more unfortunate) Singaporeans "with urgent housing needs". HDB should be allowed to tweak their rules anyway they want - you ungrateful twats! Right?

Well - point 1 - urgent housing needs. I'd previously browsed articles about people urgently seeking rentals. Can't easily find them again, but Google popped up at least one -

Every time they ask HDB about their rental, everyone says the same thing -
to wait. It has been almost two years now and there is still no news. I am
really sad to see them this way

Well, enough character assassination. Think about it - urgent housing needs. The implication is that the picky ones are getting in the way of those with "urgent housing needs" - a phrase which conjures up visions of people living on the street, who could get a home now that the picky ones are being purged. But if your BTO is 30% under-sold, there's nobody with urgent housing needs, at least not urgent enough to buy what you're trying to sell them. It's a silly way to justify the policy, to disguise it as a resource prioritization issue. What HDB is trying to do is to incentivise homeseekers to buy what HDB wants built, rather than what the homeseekers are looking for. The thinking might go something like this:

"Ooh. Unsold flats. Why don't they want to stay at these places? If enough people moved into these remote locales in these beautiful communities we have planned, then the demand for services would bring services to these communities and everyone would benefit! These silly people, so picky! They're spoiling our system! Making us look bad too, first so many applicants, makes it look like we didn't build enough. Then so many empty flats, as if what we offered is so unattractive! These picky people! How do I make them stop applying and then not buying flats?"

I'm sorry - in my idealized view of government, I would have thought that the approach should have been to find out why the BTOs were falling short of those homeseeker's expectations.

Or maybe they've asked already, and discovered that these picky people are just unrealistic buggers who expect cheap and good, and their expectations are unrealistic. You'll never meet their needs so get them out of the way. Well, if that's the case - then the implication is that the unsold flats ARE worth their price. Obviously all the people applying for HDB flats are too stupid to see that the flats are good bargains!


No comments: